Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Joy Division's debut album, for the sound of Martin Hannett's production alone, changed the way people thought about music in the post-punk era. Here was glacially smooth and dark music with theatrical intent and a poetic sensibility.
It sounded astonishingly gloomy (lines like "where will it end" and "she's lost control again" leap out at you) but Hannett's spacious production also allowed massive bass lines and mechanistic drumming to create a sonic landscape in which Ian Curtis' vocals sound like they have been beamed in from a distance, both physical and emotional.
A track like Candidate for example would be almost a disjointed art statement if Curtis' vocals were removed.
But it is his delivery and poetry which is the compelling feature: Curtis sings as a man feeling removed from or uncomfortable in the world, he drew on experiences in his job as a social worker confronting the grim misery of his clients (She's Lost Control) but became a kind of Mancunian Sylvia Plath where there are images of white sheets and silent cars beside the road, blood on fingers and "I've seen the nights filled with blood sports and pain".
Curtis is there in every lyric: the observer or participant.
Unknown Pleasures was never an easy listen and some only heard its dark and gloomy qualities, not it's poetry. When people joked that Leonard Cohen was a one-man Joy Division, they didn't realise quite how that was more true than just a superficial reading.
One of the great albums of rock era which should be in any collection, it is now less than $10 from JB H-Fi stores (here).
And that is a Bargain Buy.